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Push for high school resumes


Supporters of a new high school for west county plan to take their message to the Board of Education tonight at a public hearing on Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposed $70 million capital budget and six-year building plan.

Project advocates, who stepped up their campaign for a new school this summer, claimed a victory after Parham included $50,000 to begin planning the county's 13th high school in fiscal year 2003.

And they don't intend to let the momentum subside as the board considers Parham's recommended spending plan for fiscal year 2002 and the blueprint for construction projects through 2007.

"Having it [the high school] recognized in the budget is another step in the process," said Sharon Puckett, vice chairwoman of the Crofton-based Thirteenth High School Now Committee.

"We also recognize that we need five votes from the Board of Education to get it approved," she added.

The budget also requires the approval of the County Council.

Supporters of a 13th high school plan to ask the board to move the $50,000 in planning funds to fiscal 2002, which will begin July 1. Planning money is the first step for a project to become eligible for state construction funds.

"We feel that right now we're already behind the eight ball, and the planning money needs to be moved up another year," Puckett said.

The idea of a new high school dates to the mid-1970s and has taken on a sense of urgency in the past several years, during which much of the county's growth has occurred in Crofton and Odenton.

Fine-tuning arguments

Since the superintendent presented her budget to the board Sept. 6, supporters of a 13th high school have been fine-tuning their arguments in favor of the project.

"We've had strategy meetings about how we can best support the superintendent," said Puckett, who expects between "30 and 300" people to attend tonight's public hearing to show support for the high school.

She said pupils from Crofton Woods Elementary, who would attend a new West County high school, will be part of the group so that they can "witness the budget process."

Puckett said members of her group are questioning the cost of the new high school, which is put at $63 million in Parham's capital budget.

"We've got people on our committee that do large construction projects, and everything we come up with is much closer to $36 million," she said.

Key building initiatives

Although the West County high school project is likely to draw the largest group of supporters at tonight's hearing, the recommended spending plan addresses other key building initiatives.

The top construction priority for 2002 is a 460-student addition at North County High School in Ferndale, the cost of which has risen in the past year from $12 million to $17.7 million.

Parham's budget request of nearly $13 million for the final phase reflects added construction costs, which school officials say have increased from $117 to $171 per square foot because of a tight construction market.

Playing field upgrade

Her budget also includes $3 million for the first phase of a new $10 million physical education facility and upgraded playing fields at the school.

Other major budget requests include:

$5.9 million for the first phase of a 400-seat expansion at Southern Middle School.

$3 million for replacing Davidsonville Elementary School.

$1.9 million for replacing Glendale Elementary School.

$3.2 million for replacing Mayo Elementary School, a project that is on hold while school officials study an alternative building site.

$2.2 million in planning and construction money for Marley Middle School, pending the results of a feasibility study to determine whether the project will be a new school or a modernization.

Testimony at tonight's hearing, at 7 p.m. at the board's headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis, will be limited to three minutes for an individual and five minutes for a representative of a group.

The sign-up sheet will be available at 6 p.m.

Information: school board office, 410-222-5311.

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